Submitted by: Sean M. Brown

A few days ago, I joined about 100 attendees for the first private showing of Camden Love Hate, a documentary that students from Camden Center for Youth Development, a Camden alternative school, filmed with handheld cameras. The project was initiated and directed by Daniel Meirom, professional film maker, in collaboration with CCYD. The project started in 2008.

In the opening scene of the movie, a news broadcaster describes one of the most horrific crimes in Camden’s history: the murder of two teens that sat in a car, attacked by a man with a machete and gun. I knew someone that was in that car. Khalil Gibson was my intern for a year when he was a senior at MetEast High School. Hearing the story brought me back to the moment I learned about his death. But seeing the hopes and talents of all the Camden youth/filmmakers from CCYD made me think of happier times with Khalil.

After the first scene, I was nauseous and nervous. I was hoping this was not another urban decay porn. We don’t need another reminder that Camden has a crime problem. We get it. I wanted to learn something, to be motivated, to get answers, and walk out slightly better than when I walked in.

I did.

See the trailer here:

I did not “like” this documentary the way I “liked” Forest Gump or District 9, because it reminded me of everything I hate about the city. I was forced to feel uncomfortable, if not inadequate, for not being able to do more to prevent violence. I also thought this was a great documentary about urban issues, because of its purity and scope. The film touches on so many themes that are rarely discussed by politicians and administrators. These themes include the perception of Camden, the city’s history [how many theaters used to exist in Camden?], the influx of suburban drug addicts, tent city and homelessness, teen sex and sexual assault, relationships with police, the responsibility of schools, and the desire for good jobs. All these themes are discussed in ways that would make anyone with a brain and heart care about the young people in the documentary.

This is a movie that everyone should see [disclaimer: it is Rated R-ish due to profanity and themes]: the media, trap boys, the police, people that buy or sell drugs, and people that set the political agenda. It took eight years to make it, and within that time, although some things have changed, so much remains the same. The documentary is not shown in chronological order, confusing the viewer on what happened when. But it doesn’t matter. Too many things recorded in 2008, could have easily been recorded today. The parallels between Camden Love Hate and April Saul’s article about gang violence released last week were weary reminders of where we are.

Fresh from North Carolina, former CCYD Executive Director, who’s now retired, Dr. Stella Horton spoke in her legendary manner before the movie was shown. She quoted the lyricist Drake with her arms out, signature accent, and engaging style, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here. Started from the bottom, now we’re here!”. She went on to say that when she was at CCYD, the staff was “nearly mesmerized at our youth after coming back from interviews. The hours were countless that they put in”. Confirming that this was a true Camden event, and expressing cultural relevance CCYD long-time staffer and Director of Admissions Sadie Lang then read from The Rose That Grew From Concrete, by Tupac Shakur with poise and purpose. Both Dr. Horton and Ms. Lang were critical to supporting this film project from the beginning.

rose that grew from concrete

The movie is currently only being shown at private screenings as Director and Producer Daniel Meirom works to get it picked up by film festivals. The next showing:

New York City on April 19th at 7:00pm for a reception and 8:00pm for the screening

Address: JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. @76th Street, New York, NY 10023